Steve Wood: Flying for a Record Purpose

By Scott Spangler on June 1st, 2010

Pilots earn their certificates for many reasons, but it’s been my experience that they only keep flying after the checkride if they have a goal, a purpose for being airborne more satisfying and fulfilling than the empty aeronautical nourishment of the hundred dollar burger.

Wood-Goofy For some it’s exploring the backcountry. For others it is aerobatics. And for Steve Wood, it is setting FAI world speed records over a recognized course in this homebuilt Glasair Aviation GlaStar, affectionately known as Goofy, for its N-number N600FY. I’ve mentioned Steve before, in Looking Up to Sustain a Future in Aviation, and noted that he’d set 90 world speed records.

Just before the three-day weekend I got an e-mail from Steve. He mentioned that he’d just run across the March 9 post, and “I thought you might like to know that on 16 April—yes, I took a day off from Sun ‘n Fun—I provisionally set a further 11 FAI World Records bringing my total to 101 records.”

In his usual manner, he planned the out and back flight to Nassau, Bahamas, with precision and attending to the multitude of details required for any record attempt. The success of any record attempt is determined by the planning, he says. To ensure the accuracy of the overhead times at each of the cities to and from the international destination (Nassau), he flies IFR and talks to each tower before the flight.

Wood-route Five of Steve’s April 16 city pairs were Daytona, Orlando, Titusville, Vero Beach, and Fort Pierce to Nassau, a total one-way distance of roughly 350 nautical miles. On his way home to Spruce Creek, a fly-in community outside of Daytona Beach, he set another five world records from Nassau to the cities he passed over on the way down. Number 11 was a round-trip record between Daytona and Nassau. His top speed was 240.47 km/h (149.43 mph) between Nassau and Titusville. 

“Why did I do this? Well, it’s OK having the most records of any British pilot and the most records set in a US registered homebuilt, etc., etc. But I thought I would be the very first to break the 100 world record barrier. Others may set more records than me in years to come, but now at least I will have been the first to break the 100 record barrier—a bit like breaking the sound barrier for the first time!”

And in the process, he brings attention to the causes for which he flies, Flying Scholarships for the Disabled, Able Flight, and EAA Young Eagles. Most who learn of Steve’s accomplishments are, like me, impressed, thankful…and jealous. Others feel threatened for some insecure reason, and they have whispered to me that Steve sets records for personal glory. My only response is a single-word question: So? And if the whispers get a bit uppity and self-important, I pose another question: What keeps you flying regularly and, more importantly, what have you contributed to the world of flight?” – Scott Spangler

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